The History of Tibet in the Ming Dynasty
In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang toppled the reign of Yuan Dynasty and established the Ming Dynasty instead. Two years later, the ex-Yuan emperor in exile died of illness. Some Tibetan lamas and lay leaders in northwestern China who had pledged loyalty to the Yuan Dynasty submitted to the authority of Ming' reign successively.
In 1372, Namgyal Palzangpo, the leader of Sakya Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, led an entourage of more than 60 members to have an audience with the Ming Emperor Taizu. The latter conferred him the title of "Buddhist Treasure State Tutor", which made Namgyal Palzangpo the first Tibetan leader to receive a title from the Ming emperor. Not long after, Ming Emperor Taizu bestowed Sakya Gyaincain, leader of the Pagmo Drupa regime then in control of Tibetan areas, the official title of Abhiseca State Tutor and a jade seal.
Emperor Taizu then set up an itinerant Commanding Office in Xi'an to administrate the three commanderies of Hezhou, Dokhams and U-Tsang. Thus an administrative system of commanding office, commanderies and junior commanderies was established.
Official posts such as commander, Qianhu (1,000 househoulds), and Baihu (100 househoulds) are all hereditary. Like it was in the Yuan Dynasty, leaders of major local Tibetan authorities had to be appointed by Ming emperors after being recommended by Pagmo Drupa leaders. The central court would grant them seals as a token of authority and power.
During the rule of Emperor Yongle, the granting of titles to religious and secular leaders in Tibet became increasingly frequent. Among those, there are five titles of Princes that are the highest in position, namely, the Prince of Persuasion, the Promotion Prince of Virtue, the Guardian Prince of Doctrine, the Propagation Prince of Doctrine, and the Assistant Prince of Doctrine.
Meanwhile, considering the significant influence Tibetan Buddhist sects enjoyed in Tibet, the central court of Ming divided the region into divisions for different sects to govern.
During the rule of Emperor Yongle, the Living Buddha Karmapa of the Black-Hat lineage of Karma-Kagyu Sect was granted the title of "the Great Treasure Prince of Dharma", and the leader of Pagmo Drupa Sect was bestowed the title of "the great Vehicle Prince of Dharma".
The Ming Emperor Xuande granted Sakya Yeshes, an eminent lama of the Gelug Sect, the title of "the Great Mercy Prince of Dhaema."
In the border areas of Tibet, the Ming court set trading posts to facilitate trade in tea and horses, by which paper, silk, tea and other inland goods were introduced into Tibet, while Tibetan horses, sheep, and cattle flew into interior regions. Inland areas and Tibet have maintained close trade exchanges since then.
Unlike the Yuan Dynasty, the reign of Ming didn't depend on a single sect of Tibetan Buddhism to govern Tibet. Instead Ming emperors bestowed authority and fiefs to leaders of all the influential religious sects. This system of enfeoffment connected monasteries, land and economy, creating manors controlling particular areas in Tibet, thus giving rise to the integration of political and religious powers in Tibet.